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Good morning. Here’s what you need to know.
- Overnight trading in Asia sent markets higher, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gaining 1.7 per cent. European shares are modestly up while U.S. futures erased earlier gains and are now negative.
- Durable Goods Orders fell by the greatest rate in three years in January, new data from the Commerce Department shows. Overall, orders declined 4.0 per cent, against expectations for a 1.0 per cent dip. Orders were weak across the board, with substantial weakness in transportation and aircraft, computers, and machinery.
- The FBI is readying cases against nearly 120 suspects as it expands its dive into insider trading, the Wall Street Journal’s Jenny Strasburg and Reed Albergotti report. The operation, nicknamed “Perfect Hedge,” is the first time the FBI has quantified the size of its ongoing inquiry. The news follows a number of high profile convictions for the agency. Click here to read the rise and fall of Raj Rajaratnam, who was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison for insider trading.
- Consumer confidence in the eurozone increased greater than expected in February, the European Commission says. The key index advanced from 93.4 to 94.4, month-on-month. Here’s your 10-second guide to what will happen in Europe this year >
- Japanese retail sales grew at a modestly faster clip than economist forecasts in January, data from Japan’s Trade Ministry shows. Sales rose 1.9 per cent from year ago levels, or 4.1 per cent sequentially, following a 2.5 per cent gain in December. Economists were looking for a 0.1 per cent contraction.
- South Africa’s economy expanded by 3.2 per cent in the fourth quarter, data from Statistics South Africa shows. That’s 10 basis points higher than economist forecasts and a rapid acceleration from the 1.7 per cent annualized rate logged in the prior three months. Here’s a big bullish case for the frontier markets of Africa.
- Home prices declined 0.5 per cent in the U.S., Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller data shows. The index covering the 20 largest metropolitan cities came in below expectations, with economists polled by Bloomberg looking for a 0.35% drop. These are the 15 worst housing markets for the next five years.
- General Motors is in talks with Peugeot Citroen to purchase a small stake in the French automaker, Reuters reports. Details of the deal put the stake between five and seven per cent, which at Peugeot’s $4.8 billion market cap would the purchase between $240 and $340 million. Surprised that high gas prices haven’t killed the auto market? These analysts aren’t.
- Quarterly results will be announced by El Paso Energy and DreamWorks Animation, along with more than a dozen other firms today. Analysts polled by Bloomberg forecast earnings per share of $0.30 and $0.33 at El Paso and DreamWorks, respectively. Read more about the already disappointing earnings season that has nonetheless sent stocks higher >
- HSBC’s London unit is being investigated into illegal money transfers, including some to Iran, Reuters reports. The bank’s New York operations are also under inquiry by the Manhattan district attorney, Federal Reserve and Justice Department, among others. HSBC disclosed the probe in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.